Candida is a type of yeast found in the body. In normal amounts, it's simply a harmless gut flora, but an overgrowth can cause fungal infections.
Fungal infections compromise our immune system, which can lead to a host of problems. A few examples are: allergies, food sensitivities, "brain fog," changes in mood and even autoimmune disorders. You might be shocked to hear that most people have an overgrowth of some kind in their body but don't know it – yes, even you. Don't feel too bad; I personally suffer from Candida, so I feel your pain.
[Read: Foods That Boost Your Immune System.]
The Bitter Sweet Truth About Candida
Generally, the protocol for getting Candida under control is cutting out all sugar from the diet for at least six months. That sounds super easy right? No sugar of any kind for six months? Think again!
"No sugar" doesn't just mean no cakes, cookies or candies – it also means no fruit or starchy carbohydrates like yams and potatoes. Essentially, the only things you can eat on this diet are certain meats, green veggies and some nuts. I know, not only from personal experience but also from working with my clients, that this type of diet is very difficult to sustain. It's especially hard for those transitioning from an "average" or "liberal" diet, which just so happens to be most of the general population.
Luckily, there are other things you can do to combat this issue. But before I move on I want to give you some insight on my experience with Candida: When I was 17 years old, I developed an autoimmune condition called Alopecia. This particular condition causes hair loss. This was a really hard time for me. I had no idea what was happening inside my body. Eight years later, I became educated in the field of holistic nutrition. It was at this time I began to suspect my autoimmune disorder was related to my diet and an overgrowth of Candida. Right then and there I made some big changes, not only in my diet but in my life in general. After several months of this new lifestyle, my hair began to grow back! And even though I prefer to keep my head shaved now, it does still grow.
You'll notice I didn't just mention my diet. While it was a big part of my transformation, the changes I made in my everyday life had just as big of an impact. There are other reasons fungal infections occur in the body that are not associated with diet. One example is high levels of stress. In my case, I didn't handle stress very well when I was young, even though I thought and my friends and family thought otherwise. The reality is, I remember having these gut wrenching stomach aches and that nervous butterfly feeling in the pit of my stomach all the time. To this day, these are all signs of stress for me.
Stress and Fungus?
You might be wondering, "What does stress have to do with fungus?"
Well, stress has an effect on cortisol, which is a catabolic hormone. This simply means it breaks things down instead of building things up like anabolic hormones do. Irregular cortisol levels can lead to the breakdown of Secretory Immunoglobulin A (SIg A). SIg A is a type of antibody that protects the mucosal linings found inside our air ways, digestive system and intestines. In the intestines, SIg A is the barrier that keeps food, bacteria and fungi inside the intestines. When SIg A is destroyed by cortisol, food, bacteria and fungi are able to seep out of the intestines and into the bloodstream. This is called leaky gut syndrome, which can cause Candida and an array of other problems.
This just goes to show you: Nothing in the body happens independently of anything else.
When foreign objects like fungi, bacteria and food particles get into the bloodstream, the body will respond with some type of autoimmune response. This is why, when people come to me with Candida, I work with them on changing their life, not just their diet.
So what else can you do to combat an overgrowth of Candida? In addition to cutting out sugar and reducing your stress levels, try taking grapefruit seed extract. This is an incredible, naturally occurring, antifungal agent. I use it every single day.
Because leaky gut is often involved with Candida, you should take probiotics and omega-3 fatty acids, which will help repair your gut. Probiotics will help raise the amount of good bacteria found in the gut, and omega-3 will help reduce inflammation in the gut and elsewhere in the body.
Why Candida Isn't as Simple as Some Make it Seem
Whether it's Candida or some other health issue, the point I want to get across is that they are not caused by one single thing. It won't ever be as easy as, "If you exclude this one thing or do this one thing, you'll be cured!" If you ever hear a person or product make that claim, don't listen. It's just nonsense.
With that being said, if you have Candida, you should avoid sugar, peanuts (which contain fungus), yeast and all types of bread. Just don't forget to consider the other culprits that might be involved.
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Yuri Elkaim, BPHE, CK, RHN is a registered holistic nutritionist, fitness expert and highly sought-after high-performance health coach. He's also a former professional soccer player and served as the head strength and conditioning and nutrition coach for men's soccer at the University of Toronto for seven seasons. For more than 13 years, he's empowered more than 86,000 people to greater health with his no-nonsense approach to health, fitness, and nutrition. He's made it his mission to empower at least 10 million people to greater health and fitness by 2018. Get Yuri's free "Y-Factor" at www.yurielkaim.com.